Friday, February 15, 2019

Congress may be divided on taxes, but it’s finally united in its war on faxes

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Finally, Congress has the courage to face the scourge of our nation head on: the fax machine!

Well, actually, unnecessary paperwork, bureaucracy, and legislation that’s outdated for the digital age. But also, faxes!

The House of Representatives unanimously passed a bipartisan bill that does away with the need for constituents to use a freaking fax machine, or physical mail, to issue “federal consent forms.” These are documents that authorize congress to contact federal agencies on behalf of their constituents. 

To do so, the Privacy Act of 1974 requires that the agencies have written authorization — which, to this point, has meant snail mail, or the fax machine. And recently, this well-intentioned at the time, but now outdated piece of bureaucracy, has been causing problems.

Representative Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced H.R.3076 -Creating Advanced Streamlined Electronic Services for Constituents Act of 2018 bill in June 2017. In the wake of a disaster, he found that the Privacy Act stood in his way of acting on behalf of his constituents. Specifically, it became an “embarrassing” problem for Graves when he was trying to get FEMA to take action in the wake of flooding in his district.

After Louisiana’s historic flooding last fall, we were all-hands-on-deck to field the thousands of calls from flood victims in need of help. It was embarrassing to have to tell people who literally just lost everything – including their printers and internet – that the law requires them to print and fax, scan, or mail in a sheet of paper authorizing us to speak to FEMA or any other agency before we could do anything. So, we immediately started efforts to identify the problem and how to fix it.

The bill allows constituents to give consent electronically. Specifically, it requires federal agencies to establish a system that can process electronic consent forms.

Happily, this better-late-than-never legislation enjoyed bi-partisan support. On Tuesday, it passed 379-0 in the House. 

Freshman congresswoman Katie Hill (D-CA), who was termed “America’s most millennial candidate,” aptly pointed out the necessity for the bill on the house floor, when she noted that “faxes may or may not have ended their usefulness before I was born.”

Our hyper-partisan and stratified Congress is often plagued with gridlock and in-fighting; just now, another government shutdown could be looming.

So it’s refreshing to know that at least on one thing, they can agree: sorry olds, the fax machine has gots ta go.

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Source: Mashable

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